While the French enjoy their overflowing courses in the fine dining setting; Americans for their instant food; and Koreans are fond of their multiple healthy side- dishes, Indians all over their country are into their own signature meal: the Thali.
What is Thali, by the way? Thali is an incorporation of simple but delectable dishes, with each dish prepared in small amounts, designed for one heavy meal and served on an equally big plate (or should I say, platter?) Anyway, how does a Thali really look like? Each dish (like rice, dal, vegetables, roti, papad, yoghurt…etc.) is put inside a small bowl called katoris. The katoris, then, are nicely put together, arranged side by side, on a big plate. Sometimes, katoris are not used but steel trays with multiple partitions catering for the different dishes.
Now, India is a big country divided into different regions or states, so one may find a number of different Thalis. Each region designs their own thali, suiting to their people’s taste and culinary scheme. So it’s pretty impossible to rank what’s hot and what’s not. However, I’ve listed 5 different thalis I would love to prepare and taste.
This exquisite but simply prepared Indian lunch is served only twice a day in the rural areas in Haryana. Traditionally the farmers there skip their breakfasts and just take lunch and dinner. In the process, these two meals are prepared in huge amounts, with the dinner even grander than the lunch.
Haryani Thali consists of large helpings of ghee, curd and butter. The set is completed with the mouth-watering presence of hara dhania cholia, mithey chawal, khichdi, kachi lassi, kachri ki sabzi, alsi ki pinni and malpuas.
Now, I suddenly remembered Ranchodas (played by actor, Aamir Khan) in the film, 3 Idiots, who was fond of Gujaratis. Now, with this savory set which is mainly made up with Gujaratis, individuals with sweet tooth will surely adore Kathiawadi Thali as it is filled with signature bits of Nylon Khaman dhokla, Sev tamata nu Shaak, Kathiawadi stuffed onion, Raasawala dhokla, Gujarati dal, Dal Dhokli, Bajra Bhakri, methi thepla, kathiawadi adha adad, gol papdi and chaas. Yes, they are—along with those names!—are quite a bite.
The Goan region with its famous beaches teems with wide selection of seafood, rice, coconut, fish and kokum. Given with these gifts of the tropics, one can only imagine what their version of thali has to offer… a complete treat of seafood experience! Goan thali features Goan rice bhakri, Goan daali thoy, kele ambat (plaintain gravy), vegetable vindaloo, Goan kokum curry (or Sol Kadi) and Goan Banana Halwa, plus Kormolas. It sounds like a real Goan treat don’t you think?
Now, here’s one thali for the vegetarians and health conscious peers like the Meghalaya people. Meghalaya thali highlights the nutritious benefits of boiled veggies, puklein and black sesame, an ingredient available in almost all the Meghalayan dishes. Here’s a sample of the thali line-up: Ja Dai, Jastem, Potato Kappa, Daineiiong, Janeiiong (black sesame pulao), Shana Jhiej Puklein, Phan karo phon (boiled sweet potato) and Salad Khleh. I’m pretty sure vegetarians would love this healthful but palatable array.
Speaking of ‘treats,’ this traditional thali will surely bring you to the ultimate lunch out. Assamese thali is packed with rice, masor tenga (or what they call fish in sour gravy) and khar (vegetable medley made using dried banana peelings) and a selection of either chicken or duck curry with ash-gourd. Bamboo shoot chutney and kharoli, pasted mustard seeds rolled into balls accompany and help to bring out the taste of the rice-viand tandem. The aloo pitika or mashed potatoes with boiled eggs and mustard oil finishes the Assamese touch to this thali. The combined herby flavors within this thali will surely freshen up your soul even as you eat. It’s a certified one Indian blow-out!